'Martyrs' among competition selection

BARCELONA — A strong dose of Gallic genre, led by cause celebre “Martyrs,” features prominently in competition at the 41st Sitges Intl. Film Festival of Catalonia, Europe’s biggest genre pic event.

Chilean Nicolas Lopez’s awaited “Santos” and “Sexy Killer,” the latest from horror hub Barcelona, also unspool in Sitges’ Catalan Focus with the option of making it into competition.

Only just over half Sitges’ main competish titles were revealed by Sitges director Angel Sala at a Barcelona press conference Wednesday.

Titles announced are enough, however, to underscore contempo genre directors’ fascination with often gruelling violence, and genre movies growth in Europe and, more latterly, Latin America.

“Genre films are in excellent health, especially in France but also in Europe in general, as well as Argentina, Chile and Mexico,” said Sala.

A Weinstein Company U.S. pickup, Pascal Laugier’s reportedly punishingly violent “Martyrs” has been at the center of a classification brouhaha in France since hit by an 18+ rating late May.

It is joined in the competition by “The Possibility of an Island,” first-time director Michel Houellebecq’s cloning dystopia drama, Fabrice du Welz’s “Vinyan,” a Thai-Burmese jungle-set ghost story with Emmanuelle Beart, and horror/sci-fi triptych “Tokyo!” from Michel Gondry, Leos Carax and Bong Joon-ho, which was generally well-received in Cannes Un Certain Regard.

Sitges’ competish also picks up on other Cannes talking points, such as Korean duo “The Good the Bad the Weird,” a rumbustious Manchurian oater from sought-after helmer Kim Jee-woon and Na Hong-jin’s serial killer thriller “The Chaser,” set up for remake at Warner Bros.

From the U.S., Jennifer Lynch competes with serial killer drama “Surveillance,” Japan’s Takashi Miike with high-school actioner “Crows: Episode 0,” and James Watkins’ Brit thriller “Eden Lake,” another meditation on shocking violence, this time about a couple attacked by yobs.

Competition titles are rounded up to date by Swede Tomas Alfredson’s femme vampire love story “Let the Right One In.”

Co-produced by Elizabeth Avellan’s Troublemaker Studios, Lopez’s Sobras and Spain’s Boomerang TV, super hero romcom “Santos” marks the Spanish-speaking world’s first full film immersion in sci-fi f/x filmmaking. It looks bound for Austin’s Fantastic Fest before its Sitges European preem.

“Sexy Killer” comes with good buzz for a fast-paced tribute to ‘80s brat splat.

The Catalan Focus is rounded up by Hernan Migoya’s “Soy un pelele,” and Nazi-ghoul tingler “God’s Forgotten Town.”

Sitges will open with a U.S. pic, yet to be revealed, Sala said Wednesday. The 41st edition runs Oct. 2-12.

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